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Most people on Oahu have their own (strong) opinion about the best places to kayak. And it’s easy to take their word for it. But we've done some paddling of our own and narrowed down all the can't-miss kayaking spots on the island.
So whether you're in the mood for a leisurely cruise around the bay or are ready for an all-out adventure in the open ocean, here's where to launch your 'yak.
Lanikai Beach is widely recognized as one of the best beaches in America, and once you push off into the picturesque waters in your kayak, it’s easy to see why. The water here is calm pretty much all year round, which makes it a perfect spot for beginners. But don’t worry — if you’re looking for a real workout, a popular activity here is kayaking to the Mokulua Islands (located a little under a mile from the shore). You can pull up and park right on the largest island’s shore and spend the day lounging on the sand or exploring the island.
Truly a unique place, Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is a strip of sand a few hundred yards from shore. The only way to get there is by boat or—you guessed it—kayak. During low tide, you’ll see people posted up in the shallow water with beach chairs and coolers filled with refreshments, and at high tide, the kayakers and snorkelers come out to enjoy the warm water. It’s great exercise — just don’t forget to check the tides.
Easily one of the largest and most pristine beaches on Oahu’s Windward side, Kailua Beach Park offers something for everyone, including kayakers. The still, clear water is the perfect place for a kayaking adventure, especially if you’re a fan of sea turtles — they frequent the water here. There are plenty of kayak rental companies around Kailua town that will help you out with a tour or a rental, too. Kailua Beach Adventures and Twogood Kayaks will take you out themselves or hook you up with single or double kayaks. Even better, both shops are just a short walk to the beach!
Secret Island is a secluded spot on Oahu’s East Side close to the North Shore. The only catch is that you’ll need to book a tour to get there, as Kualoa Ranch is a private nature reserve. But that just adds to what makes this place so special! They limit the number of people allowed at a time, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a quiet spot. Make a day out of it and pair Secret Island with one of their movie site tours (Jurassic Park was filmed on the property) or with horseback riding.
At this kayaking destination, you'll get to paddle alongside green sea turtles as they feed along the river’s bottom — it’s one of their favorite places to eat! You might even spot a tortoise munching at the water’s edge if you’ve got a good eye. The river stretches about one mile, so take as little or as much time as you want on this calm, leisurely kayaking route.
Once you finish your journey down the Anahulu River, go ahead and make your way toward the bay in front of Hale‘iwa Beach Park — it flows right out. The shallow water isn’t great for swimming, but canoes and kayaks frequent here. Watch the surfers riding waves at the popular Pua’ena Point or catch some great views of nearby Hale‘iwa Town.
Recreation meets history at He‘eia Fishpond in Kaneohe. Don’t let the word “pond” fool you; it encompasses about 88 acres and its walls stretch 5,000 feet long. Explore the 1,000-year-old fishpond (one of the only left in Hawai‘i) by kayak and go back in time to when the ancient Hawai‘ians used the pond to fish sustainably. Holokai Kayak offers both guided and self-guided tours of the area by kayak.
The serene waters at Fort DeRussy Beach in Waikiki is the perfect place for beginner kayakers and is probably your best bet for the least number of tourists in the popular neighborhood. Don't have a kayak of your own? No worries, Koa Beach Service can hook you up with a single-person kayak for 10 bucks. Or, fit the whole crew in a three-person kayak for $30. No matter if you're in a group or going solo, you can expect to catch one of the best views of iconic Diamond Head from the water here.
The protective offshore breakwater at Pōka‘ī Bay makes it one of the safest places to kayak on Oahu’s West Side. While the surf on this side of the island can get pretty high during certain times of the year, Pōka‘ī remains calm year-round. Plan on launching your kayak early in the morning and you might catch sight of the Hawai‘ian spinner dolphins who call the bay home.
This bay at Kahana makes for some pretty spectacular views, as it's surrounded by the majestic Ko‘olau Mountains. Don’t be surprised if you have the area to yourself for most of the day — this beach is a hidden gem on Oahu’s Windward Coast. The neighboring stream in Kahana Valley is a jungle-filled oasis that provides a unique kayaking experience.
A favorite of Turtle Bay (popularly known for where Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed) guests, Kawela Bay is one of the quietest and most isolated beaches on Oahu’s North Shore. Book a kayak tour with the resort to take advantage of their eco-kayaks and participate in the Green Sea Turtle ID project. And when you need a break, there are plenty of shady spots to kick back and relax.
Mokoli‘i Island, aka Chinaman’s Hat, is a famous landmark on Oahu’s eastern shores. Kayaking the 500 yards to the island and then hiking to the top is a fun, unique way to get your workout in (but let's face it: any workout with a Hawai‘ian ocean cool down is a win in our book). Although the hike is short, it is steep, so experienced hikers only, please.
Okay, so this requires some island hopping, but if you’re looking for an easy ride, this is it. Wailua River on Kauai has a smooth flowing current paired with impressive views of the island’s famous lush landscape. The river is also the only entrance to Uluwehi Falls, so be prepared for some pretty amazing scenery.
If you’ve come to Hawai‘i to see some ocean wildlife via kayak (and can leave Oahu), Honolua Bay on Maui is where you want to be. The waters are teeming with healthy ocean life and a large coral reef thanks to its location within the Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District. This spot can get rough in the winter months, so plan for the summertime if you want to kayak here.
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